Vertical Seismic Profiling Part VI – Parting with Evsey and Going My Own Way in the VSP World

I will tell one more memory of Evsey Gal’perin from the 1979 SEG Annual Meeting in New Orleans and then summarize factors that pushed me deeply into developing VSP technology.

At the end of the first day of the 1979 SEG meeting, Evsey and I walked a route to our hotel that passed by a Popeye’s chicken establishment. I realized Evsey had never had southern fried chicken, so I took him inside. He looked at the pictures of what you could order, pointed at a plate of fried chicken with sides of mashed potatoes and corn on the cob, and asked “is that corn?”. I said “yes”. He said “no, no, we don’t eat corn, we feed corn to cattle and pigs”.

I encouraged him to try a sample. He did. A broad smile crossed his face. We then ate at Popeye’s every evening so he could have corn on the cob.

The morning following our last corn-on-the-cob meal, he and his translator began their flight back to Moscow from the New Orleans airport. I returned to Phillips with a determination to integrate VSP technology into our seismic stratigraphy research. Factors beyond my control then began to set the course I followed. Russia invaded Afghanistan December 24, 1979. The warm, cooperative relationship between the U.S. and Russia switched to antagonism. My planned travel to Moscow in the first quarter of 1980 to continue VSP work with Evsey was canceled. I was on my own.

Evsey’s visit to Phillips set several things in motion. Phillips was recognized as an early leader in developing VSP technology. The new-generation VSP geophone built by Phillips spurred others to focus on down-hole receivers. A procedure for creating images from far-offset VSP data was developed by Kay and Steve Wyatt at Phillips. Their VSPCDP transform expanded the value of VSP data. I got into the field to record VSP data as often as I could.

seismic profile across eldfisk field

VSP technology became particularly important in developing Phillips’s giant Ekofisk/Eldfisk discoveries in Norway. These fields were discovered before 3D seismic imaging existed. 2D profiles across each anticline implied their crests were collapsed. There was, however, evidence that gas leaked from each crest and created velocity slow-downs in the overburden. The result was reflection “pull-downs” that created false impressions of structural collapse. These 2 structural possibilities meant tens of millions of barrels of oil were either present or absent, dictated the sizes and locations of production facilities, and affected financing efforts for constructing drilling platforms and offshore pipelines.

Integration of b12 image from source station g with 2d profile

Far-offset VSPs were recorded that caused down-going ray paths to under-shoot this suspected gas-saturated overburden. VSP images made from these VSP data showed there was no collapsed crest. This outcome was so important that Phillips declared “VSP data will be acquired in every critical well drilled in the Ekofisk/Eldfisk area”. When reservoir engineers get excited about VSP applications, life is good.

Undershooting the eldfisk gas cloud

My life changed in late 1980 when I got a letter from an unknown chap named Ron Gramende, who is now a close friend. Ron had established a new publishing company, Geophysical Press, in Amsterdam. He explained he wanted to publish a book on VSP. He had called contacts to identify an author, and I had been recommended. I took the letter to my supervisor to show him how well-known Phillips was becoming because of our VSP research. I told him I would write Gramende a polite letter saying “sorry, I am too busy to write a book”. To my surprise, my supervisor said “no, I want your main research objective to be to write that book”.

My publishing credentials were abysmal. My list of publications at that time was only one paper in Geophysics that dealt with VSP tube waves. Never did I envision writing a book. My supervisor told me his evaluation of my annual performance would depend on my success in writing this VSP book. That statement generated motivation. I devoted countless hours to document VSP concepts in book form. Geophysical Press printed 2000 copies of the resulting 509-page book in early 1983.

SEG initiated a Continuing Education Course on VSP and asked me and Jim DiSiena of Arco to teach it. The course notes were my book. I sometimes taught SEG courses as a sole lecturer. Geophysical Press had me teach annual VSP schools across Europe. Again, the course notes were my book. The initial 2000 copies were gone in a few months, and 1500 copies of edition 2 were printed in 1985. Edition 3 had to be printed in year 2000.

My position in VSP history is due to Evsey Gal’perin and Phillips. I only identified Evsey as a Russian scientist that Phillips could contact. Phillips brought Evsey to the U.S.  Evsey taught a 2-day VSP seminar to key U.S. executives. Phillips built a much improved VSP geophone. VSP data provided invaluable information for developing Ekofisk/Eldfisk fields. Geophysical Press asked me to write a VSP book. Phillips management insisted I write that book. VSP schools were requested around the world. All schools used my book as course notes.

None of these actions were planned by me. I simply responded to situations that kept pushing me along the path of VSP development. When I last saw Evsey a month before he died of cancer, he again pointed to himself, said “Father of VSP”, then pointed at me and said “Son of VSP”. He influenced my professional career more than anyone I have ever met.

Bob Hardage
Bob A. Hardage

Bob A. Hardage received a PhD in physics from Oklahoma State University. His thesis work focused on high-velocity micro-meteoroid impact on space vehicles, which required trips to Goddard Space Flight Center to do finite-difference modeling on dedicated computers. Upon completing his university studies, he worked at Phillips Petroleum Company for 23 years and was Exploration Manager for Asia and Latin America when he left Phillips. He moved to WesternAtlas and worked 3 years as Vice President of Geophysical Development and Marketing. He then established a multicomponent seismic research laboratory at the Bureau of Economic Geology and served The University of Texas at Austin as a Senior Research Scientist for 28 years. He has published books on VSP, cross-well profiling, seismic stratigraphy, and multicomponent seismic technology. He was the first person to serve 6 years on the Board of Directors of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG). His Board service was as SEG Editor (2 years), followed by 1-year terms as First VP, President Elect, President, and Past President. SEG has awarded him a Special Commendation, Life Membership, and Honorary Membership. He wrote the AAPG Explorer column on geophysics for 6 years. AAPG honored him with a Distinguished Service award for promoting geophysics among the geological community.

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